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How to Precisely Line Up Your Conclusions With Your Expectations
2008.04.17 (Thu) 11:42
It's simple, really: just assume whatever you want to be true, and you've got your conclusions.
Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages.
Reducing these costs, [study author Ben] Scafidi said, "is a legitimate concern of government, policymakers and legislators."
"The study documents for the first time that divorce and unwed childbearing — besides being bad for children — are costing taxpayers a ton of money," said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values.
"We keep hearing this from state legislators, 'Explain to me why this is any of my business? Aren't these private matters?'" Blankenhorn said. "Take a look at these numbers and tell us if you still have any doubt."
Tell you if we still have any doubt? Okay.
Seriously — doubt? Just for starters, we'd like to know how you came up with your unbelievable statistics.
Scafidi's calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes.
Ah, now we understand. So it's not really a study so much as it's a baseless assumption with numbers wrapped around it. Gotcha. Now it makes sense, because we know it's utter crap.
This fucking study doesn't even bother to establish causality. It seems content to assume that it's the divorces and the unwed parents that lead to more poverty, but it ignores the fact that it's just as valid (or more so) to assume that the poverty leads to increased rates of divorce and single-parenthood. And if poverty is the problem that causes this massive $112 billion issue, then why not combat that? Spending more money on increased employment, job training, and economic recovery are all general examples that might work a damn bit better than trying to combat poverty by offering marriage skills "training" on the taxpayer's dime. (That's all of us, folks.)
Perhaps — and we're just spitballing here — perhaps poverty is the root cause of all of the problems here. The study agrees that poverty leads to increased spending on criminal justice, welfare, health care, and education...but then doesn't see that the same poverty, along with those particular corollaries, is the most likely cause for unwanted pregnancies leading to single parenting and unhappy marriages ending in divorce? The term "intentionally fucking obtuse" leaps to mind here. Here's one of their "striking examples":
[Elizabeth Ananat and Guy Michaels] are able to study married couples who do and do not divorce and conclude that "divorce significantly increases the odds that a woman with children is poor."
And this suggests causality how? The fact that a divorced woman is more likely to be poor doesn't establish the cause of that poverty in any way, shape, or form. In fact, we'll stick to our hypothesis that it's more likely that the poverty causes the divorce, rather than the other way around. We don't think that's any more statistically valid, off the cuff, but it makes a whole lot more sense in context. And we didn't even have to make up any math to offer our idea!
It's telling that the Scafidi paper, while putting great stock in the Ananat-Michaels results, entirely ignores the actual point of that data.
One of the primary points of the Ananat-Michaels results was that the mean income does not decrease due to divorce. Using specific indicators that endeavor to isolate the relationship between divorce and poverty from any other factors (though we're not sure that we agree they were totally successful), Ananat and Michaels demonstrated that, statistically, many divorced women will earn less, but that those who end up earning more will earn substantially more, which (apparently) more than offsets the poverty-stricken women when it comes to determining the mean income.
In other words, since it is the overall income of these women, collectively, that will affect other taxpayers (like you and us), Scafidi's conclusion is utter bullshit. Yes, the individual women themselves will often end up in poverty, and we can (and should) certainly be concerned about that, but this nonsense about our taxes having to support scads of unmarried mothers is just Scafidi's imagination, inspired by a healthy dose of, er, sponsorship from the Institute for American Values.
As Justin Wolfers explains:
The Ananat-Michaels result is that divorce seems to help the finances of about as many women as it hurts, and those who gain, may gain more than those who lose. But this report counts up the costs to the taxpayer from the women who lose income, but refuses to count even a single dollar of the rise in taxes linked to those who gain income.
What incredibly selective statistics you've discovered, Benjamin Scafidi! And all it took was a bunch of people with an agenda asking you to write up some numbers for them to make their case look good. Nice job, you fucking weasel.
Amazingly, the advocates [Scafidi and his fundamentalist overlords] put together "fiscal" costs of divorce without even understanding the tax code. The U.S. tax system is structured so that when poor single mothers marry men with higher incomes, in most cases, the total tax paid by husband and wife would fall. Yet this isn't counted.
Those poor single women aren't robbing us of tax revenue, they are actually paying more than if they were married! (Yes, the tax code does include a marriage penalty for some couples who are both high earners, but for most couples, the U.S. gives you a tax break for getting married.)
Please do have a look at the rest of Wolfers' article — it's pretty incredible how intellectually dishonest Scafidi's piece of shit paper is.
And there's more to consider: if you truly do believe that divorce and unwed or single parenting lead to more poverty, and that therefore the government has a vested interest in lessening the impact of that poverty, then it seems to us that a rather logical conclusion is that we should focus on teaching the facts about contraception in public schools. All this bullshit "abstinence only" nonsense is only making the likelihood of unwanted (and, as such, usually unwed) pregnancies even higher. In addition, when two teens who weren't planning on getting married any time soon (if at all) get married due to an unplanned pregnancy, that certainly isn't the best bet for a long, happy marriage. We're willing to bet the statistics on that assertion hold up better than Scafidi's lopsided math.
But wait — there's something else that might be even more effective in confronting this problem. The issue here seems to be the effects of poverty on children who are raised by single parents or who experience a divorce. It strikes us that, if only we had some way to terminate unwanted pregnancies...some way to stop a pregnancy before a zygote developed into an actual baby, perhaps some kind of, we don't know, abortive procedure of some sort...then we'd have a whole lot less single parents and divorced parents (since we'd have less parents in general, and fewer resultant forced or reluctant marriages, which are inherently less likely to last). So perhaps, in addition to adequate sex education, the government should also promote abortions as a viable alternative to having a baby, when prospective parents really just aren't ready to have one from a social and economic perspective. Having a baby when you aren't ready to support one leads to — you guessed it — a higher likelihood of poverty. We aren't saying that abortions are a wonderful alternative, or that they are for everyone (though the same can be said of divorce and single parenthood, and of marriage itself), but we are saying that educating people about the facts of contraception and abortion would very likely decrease the number of unexpected pregnancies, unwanted marriages, and broken families.
In case you'd like to take a closer look at Scafidi's very scholarly "study," you can head over to the Institute for American Values where it's housed in their "Center for Marriage and Families" and listed under "real, honest-to-gosh scientific-like research." Try your best not to be sidetracked by their ham-handed arguments against same-sex marriage, and their diatribes about the "proper" roles of men and women in a "proper" family.
What a bunch of fucking disingenuous assholes.
You know what? Here's our idea for a "study." We think Fundamentalist Christianity is fucking up our world. Further, we'll assume that Fundy families are more likely to be stupid, and as such, Christianity leads to more taxes being spent to educate their indoctrinated kids who keep getting left back over and over again because they think that early man lived side-by-side with fucking dinosaurs and rode them like bucking fucking brontos. Also, of course, more Fundamentalist-educated nitwits are ill-informed (or outright misinformed) about birth control than any other group (thanks to abstinence-only sex "education"), which leads to more unwanted teen pregnancies — which, due to the indoctrinated religious idiocy surrounding abortion, are invariably carried to term and often result in higher incidences of low-income teens getting married too young (since good "religious values" demand that they do) and earning too little (since they were so badly and briefly educated that they can't make their way in the professional world)...which, in turn, results in more poverty. More poverty, as we all know (we just read a study about this, if we recall), drives increased spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice, and education for those raised in such a stupidly disadvantaged home.
Of course, none of these assumptions are verified — we just reckon it's all true. But the obvious conclusion is that the government has a vested interest in destroying Fundamentalist Christianity. How could you come to any other conclusion? So let's get on that, and institute a government program using our tax dollars and yours to wipe out Fundamentalist Christianity in our country before it ruins our economy and quality of life. Heck, just to be safe, let's wipe out all Christianity. Or better yet, all religion. That oughta do it! After all, given the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are Christians (and all but a small handful are associated with some religion), we've just proven, beyond any doubt, that religion is costing America way more than $112 billion per year in tax money.
Reducing these costs by eradicating religion, the Two Percent Company said, "is a legitimate concern of government, policymakers and legislators."
At this point, we could either say "Oh, wouldn't it be nice?" or "You know how fucking facetiously we're writing this, right?" But it wouldn't matter; quote mining is as quote mining does, or so they say.
Fucking disingenuous assholes.
(It bore repeating.)
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[ Filed under: % Government & Politics % Greatest Hits % Religion ]
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